How to Manage a Low Budget AdWords Campaign: Lessons Learned After Spending over $40,000

SMS Text

Google AdWords campaigns are usually not considered cost effective for small and medium sized businesses.  In reality, these campaigns can be both useful and budget friendly for smaller budget users when they are carefully managed.  By using these tips I have learned after spending more than $40,000 on Google’s advertising product, you can run a successful low budget AdWords campaign.

1)      Campaign Objectives: Before you launch an ad campaign, clarify the reason for the campaign: is it to generate traffic, target specific keywords, or as a marketing stunt against your competitors? Being clear about your objective allows you to create a more effective, targeted ad.

2)      Stick to Google Search Networks: Use of product listing ads (PLAs) by e-commerce websites is also on the rise. Such options are usually recommended for campaigns with a comfortable budget, and is not recommended for budget conscious users.  PPC-search networks


3)      Extensive Keywords Research: Bid for generic keywords can be very high. So look for unique and longer keywords to compete effectively on a smaller budget. Find effective long tail keywords using your Analytics account to see organic searches leading to your website, Google auto-complete option, and tools like Google’s Keyword Tool or Word Stream’s Niche Finder                


To keep your PPC expenditure in control, keep exact match or phrase match keywords. Speaking of web services industry, choosing exact match keywords such as [web design company] will not display your ad for terms like “website design company” or “web design agency”


Targeting keywords like “web design company India” will give you relevant clicks and impressions at a lower bid. Such keywords are especially helpful for people running small and medium ventures.


4)      Avoid Dynamic Search Ads: These ads are not triggered by specific keywords chosen by you. Instead they are displayed when someone searches for anything related to the content of your landing page. While this seems convenient, it often results in irrelevant impressions and clicks, which push your daily budget up.


5)      Negative Keywords List: Make an extensive list of negative keywords and update it regularly if campaign keywords are broad match and phrase match type.  An important source could be irrelevant organic search results found in Google Analytics account, AdWords search results, and also by using negative keyword search tools like Wordstream

PPC2- search terms


6)      Bidding Strategy: Instead of letting AdWords automatically adjust your bid, set it manually to match the ad position and cost per acquisition that you desire. Bid according to the location that you want to target. Your AdWords account tells the Geographical Location of your past traffic.

PPC-Source of traffic

If you think that you are reaching the daily budget for a certain campaign, try to lower your bid so that you can be visible for a longer time without much change in your campaign’s performance.

7)      Targeting Competitors Head-on: Using the name of your competitors or industry leaders as your keywords (after insuring trademark policies) is an effective trick to get impressions. Avoid using their name in your ad copy. Frame your ad copy in such a way that you clearly reflect what the visitor will find on the landing page to avoid a high bounce rate.

8)     Target Keywords by Industry: Always stay updated with your industry best practices. To improve the list of keywords that prompt your ad to display, try finding the details of the ad campaigns of other players (keywords, budgets and ad copies) through online tools like or 

9)      Focus on Ad Position when You Can’t Match a Bid: You don’t have to be at the top of the ad results to be noticed. Having your ad displayed on top 3 positions increases the chances of getting clicked on by mistake or by immature searchers. Always keep track on the average position of your ads.

10)  Check for Overlapping Keywords: If you are using similar or duplicate keywords in different ad campaigns, the keywords will start competing against each other. So, use ad campaigns with keywords which do not overlap.

Keywords like “office furniture NY” and “furniture NY” in different campaigns are overlapping. A search query for one might trigger an ad for the other.

11)  Use Features of Enhanced Campaigns: People usually have different campaigns to target different locations and devices, spreading the daily budget even thinner. With a limited budget at hand, it’s better to have minimum number of campaigns (maximum 3).

You can bid higher for certain locations which get you maximum business.

Bidding for AdWords

12)  Optimize According to the Nature of your Business: Your ad campaigns need to be optimized according to your marketing vertical. For example, a blog about food might get extra traffic on weekdays and negligible on the weekends, or if you are in the travel industry you do better advertising more on weekends.

Timing of AdWords

13)  Quality Score:  The quality score of your keywords depends on click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. The overall ad position is determined by the CPC and quality score:

Ad position = CPC Bid*Quality Score

Quality Score

A high quality score decreases your cost and makes your ad rank higher.

What actually contributes to a good quality score?

  • Past and current performance of your keywords.
  • A high click-through rate, preferably above 1.5%
  • A working and relevant landing page that loads quickly

14)  Targeted & Conversion Optimized Landing Pages: An important component of your ad quality score is your landing page, which is judged on the parameters of relevance, content originality, transparency, and navigability. You will not get conversions from poorly structured or outdated landing pages.

15)  Analyze before Changing: Check your ad campaign regularly and take time to see how the campaign is performing. Refrain from making changes till you have enough data in the form of impressions, clicks, and conversions.

16)  Branded Campaigns: Use your brand name in your ad copy if people know you well. If you are new to the industry, you can experiment by using your company name and build a brand name gradually. Target the keywords that you are unable to achieve through organic search in your ad copy. Using brand name as a keyword won’t have a very high bid and is thus easy on the pocket too.

PPC-Branded Campaign

17)  Ad Extensions: You can add details to your existing ad to garner more attention if your ad is displayed above the search results. These details could include local address, site links, special offers, a phone number, seller rating, or social rating on Google+.

Ad Extensions

If you provide the option of phone number, you can set your ads in such a way that they turn off after your office working hours if you do not have 24/7 support.

18)  Track Cost per Acquisition: CPA shows the amount that you pay for a single conversion. After running your ad campaigns for a few weeks, you can adjust the ad if you are paying more than you estimated.

Whether you are running a high and low budget AdWords campaign, it will require planning, tracking, and timely changes. Low budget ads can be effective, if they are managed correctly. So, whether you do it on your own or hire someone to do it for you, make sure you pay attention to above mentioned points.

Do you have another point to add or discuss? Share your views in the comments section.

Manish Bhalla
Manish Bhalla serves as CEO with FATbit, a user experience design and programming company for web solutions. His company is devoted to assist global businesses... Read Full Bio
Manish Bhalla
Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • PrIyAnGsHu

    Great tips for a successful Adwords campaign at an effective budget. Pretty helpful for small advertisers like us. Thank you for this great post.

  • Steve Cameron

    This is all golden advice.

    Often articles to be found online deal with the issues faced by advertisers spending 10’s of thousands of dollars a month – but the vast majority of Google’s advertisers are precisely the SME’s.

    Many try AdWords, as much as anything because it seems that everyone is using it, only to give up after throwing a few hundred dollars down the toilet. If you set up a campaign using the “out of the box” configuration it is not going to work – you are destined to lose money. But following the tips you outline in this article even the smallest account should be able to turn a profit.

    Well done!

  • Bastien


    Thanks for this great article. As Steve says, there are no sot many on the subject.

    I have a question: I know keywords are competing between campaigns, but are keywords in different ads groups of the same campaign competing between them ?

    Google told me not but some other Adwords experts told me they are… Do you have an answer on this point ?

    Thanks for your articles

  • Witold Wrodarczyk

    Great basic stuff. I love it particularly for “Avoid dynamic search ads” :). I am not sure about the “keyword overlap” issue, this would require examples (not duplicate keywords, which is official). Also, the Quality Score calculations are not really true. QS is not a natural number 1..10 and the relation with CPC is not linear, otherwise, CPC could change only by 10x while we can imagine higher CTR differencies.

  • Victor Jones

    Nice points!
    I liked the idea of running branded campaigns. Will try it for sure.

  • Crest

    Wow! This is definitely very useful to me as I do not know how to go about with the campaign. Being ignorant is cruel to our own pockets! So I will follow your golden advice by not falling into any traps. You are my saviour to my ad campaign!!

  • Arjun

    Great Tips !! Thanks for your valuable post… Gonna dive into keyword research first…

  • Sandra Newton (@EssenteeWeb)

    These are all excellent tips. I’d never heard the view that Adwords are not effective for small budgets – but agree that it does take careful managing! I think I follow most of these tips – yay 🙂

    A challenge with low-budget campaigns is that often they are low budget because they are for small local businesses. This means very tight location targeting. And this in turn comes with low search volume on long-tail keyword phrases set to phrase or exact match. And these won’t get shown due to this low volume.